When we first started, everyone worked from home; it was completely virtual for the first four years. But as we grew (we now have more than 150,000 unique visitors and about 8,000 booking enquiries a month with a conversion rate of 35-40%), we realised we needed an office so set one up in Bristol, which is where Nikki is based, and that’s where all our staff work now. I’m the only one who works from home. We’re all in contact with each other through Skype every day and I go down to Bristol once a month. We’ll have a whole company meeting and then all go out for lunch together, so I can meet any new recruits. Although there are huge advantages to being able to work from home, I definitely do miss out a bit, even if it’s just the banter. But because I’m so used to it, I just get on to Skype when I have that need to chat. It’s the closest thing to being at the coffee machine.
Now my children are a bit older – they’re nine and 13 – I’m able to do a lot more travelling, which was one of the reasons I set up the business. The kids and I went to Iceland just recently and leased a wonderful cottage in Reykjavik before going to the fjords in the north and staying in a gorgeous place in the mountains. I’m now planning a trip to Croatia. I tend to go on quite action packed, activity type holidays because that’s what I enjoy, as do the kids. My husband is Sri Lankan, so we go there once a year, too. He’s an excellent tour guide.
There’s plenty going on closer to home too. At the moment, we’re also making the most of the growth in demand for our UK properties. According to the press, the ‘staycation’ is over, but that’s not what we’re seeing at all. We have tons of lovely quirky little places throughout the UK which is lovely as it means that I can go away for the weekend with my husband at the drop of a hat.
Laila Ram is co-founder of i-escape, the boutique hotel and holiday site.